Thursday, 28 June 2007

Reflections on the Union

The Union of England and Scotland came about after the King of Scotland inherited the crown of England. It was not in the king's interest for his subjects to raid and plunder one another across the border, and to deny each other cooperation in matters of commerce, trade, and exploitation of opportunities abroad.

In due course the politics followed the economics, the two nations were united, and together founded and developed a global empire.

Many historic unions - and even many annexations - have become so well integrated culturally as to be indissoluble over a hundred or so years, but Scotland has escaped assimilation into England over a much longer period, and it seems to me that Scotland has become more rather than less culturally distinct over the last fifty or so years.

From a 21st century perspective the original causes that brought about the Union are long gone, and there is scant evidence of benefits to both sides which absolutely depend on the Union. Free trade does not require a Union, and the days of border raids have long gone.

For Scotland the positives are a certain level of tax subsidy, and economies of scale in defence and international representation, although these are offset by the lack of sovereignty - it is scarcely believable that soldiers of an independent Scotland would be engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For England it is harder to find positives, and the negatives are increasingly evident in the political sphere, including the Scottish domination of the cabinet, the overrepresentation of Scotland at Westminster, the West Lothian issue of Scottish MPs imposing measures on England which do not affect their constituents because they are outside Westminster's powers in Scotland, and the fact that England voted Conservative at the last election but has a Labour government due to Scottish Labour votes.

Amongst the politicians these issues cause great concern. An independent Scotland would be a constitutional earthquake, and there is no telling whether the beneficiaries of today's arrangements will be able to hang onto their privileges. However, the principle of self-determination must surely override the sharing of the spoils of office, and Scotland must not be denied the opportunity to resume its sovereignty, and nor indeed must England.

© steve_roberts 2007

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